Hiking Wolf Trail in Gatineau Park

It’s a spring tradition for my partner and I to hike Wolf Trail. It’s one of my favourite trails in Gatineau Park because of its spectacular views of the Ottawa Valley. In addition to the views, the trail weaves you through a beautiful hardwood forest that is home to whitetail deer and black bear. Every season has something new to see, from spring ephemerals to colourful autumn canopies.

Trail Stats

Wolf Trail is a 7.9km loop that will take you around 3 hours to complete. The rocks, roots, mud, and elevation (300m) make it a moderately difficult hike. But, with proper footwear and fitness you should have no trouble navigating these obstacles.

The trail is well marked. Follow the signs for trail 62. Here is a map that gives you an idea of what to expect. On it, you’ll find the lookouts and intersecting trails marked.

People are of different minds about whether it is best to hike the trail clockwise (by taking a right at the start of the trail) or counterclockwise. Going counterclockwise means you hike the most difficult part of the trail at the beginning. This difficult section includes a steep climb up a rocky slope. Going clockwise means you face this difficult section at the end of your hike and you’ll be walking down. There’s no right answer, but the walk down can be slippery in wet weather.

There have been many bear sightings on this trail. It’s a good idea to carry bear spray, especially if you are visiting early morning or hiking alone.

Wolf Trail requires dogs to be leashed.

Getting There

Chemin du Lac Meech, Chelsea, Quebec

Wolf Trail / Sentier des loups is located in Gatineau Park, Québec. You can access the trail from parking lot 13 off Chemin du Lac Meech. Note that you have to pay for parking. Once at the parking lot, follow the signs for trail 62.

When to Go

Weekends at Wolf Trail are usually busy and the parking lot fills up quickly. Hike early to beat the crowds and you’ll be rewarded with a quieter trail and you might spot some wildlife.

Here’s what to expect each season:

Spring / Summer

If you are hiking in the spring, expect mosquitoes. You can also expect high waters in early spring from snow melt off. The increased water makes the trail muddy and slippery. It also makes a couple sections difficult to cross without boots. If you are worried about getting wet, you can visit the trail later in the spring or in the summer when the waters have receded. Alternatively, carry some rubber boots for these sections. We always hike clockwise in early spring because the last stream has the highest water levels and we would rather get wet at the end of the hike.

In the late summer, mosquitoes are not bad. The trail is shaded and offers some protection from the heat. Bring your swimsuit to cool off in Meech Lake after the hike. The lake is located on the other side of the parking lot.

Fall / Winter

Wolf Trail is open in the fall and winter months. In autumn, the trail is beautiful from the fall foliage. At the lookoffs, you’ll get a birds-eye view of the yellows, oranges, and reds that make up the forest canopy. Increased autumn precipitation can lead to slippery and muddy trails. But, the cooler temperatures mean you’ll avoid biting insects.

In the winter, the trail is excellent for snowshoeing after a fresh snowfall and the forest is exceptionally pretty when draped in snow. Because the area is heavily trafficked, the snow will eventually pack down and be accessible without snowshoes. When this happens, things can get pretty icy, so it’s best to bring microspikes.

Eardley Escarpment

Wolf Trail climbs up part of the Eardley Escarpment. The escarpment was formed as a result of faulting and divides the Canadian Shield and the St. Lawrence Lowlands. According to the National Capital Commission, the escarpment is 270 metres tall and extends over 30 kilometres. Its southern exposure produces an important microclimate which hosts 145 plant and animal species at risk. Over the years, restrictions have been place on activities in the escarpment to help protect this important ecosystem.

Flora and Fauna

Wolf Trail travels through a hardwood forest. Some of the trees you’ll see are American beech, sugar maple, yellow birch, and black ash. You’ll also encounter some softwoods like white pine and eastern hemlock. 

Spring is an excellent time to see the wildflowers. Red and white trilliums line the trail and you can find pink lady’s slipper, clusters of purple violet, and some pink corydalis. In the wetland areas, there is an abundance of yellow marsh marigold. In the summer months, I’ve seen goldenrod and aster.

Along with wildflowers, there are also edible and medicinal plants like blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, and sensitive fern. We saw an assortment of fungi too, including turkey’s tail and dryad’s saddle.

Gatineau Park is home to several animals including: white-tailed deer, black bear, snowshoe hare, red fox, coyote, beaver, and moose.

Mahingan and Tawadina Lookouts

The two lookouts on Wolf Trail are Mahingan and Tawadina. Mahingan is the Algonquin word for “wolf.” This lookout has a bench where you can rest and take in the view.

Tawadina has a beautiful view of the Ottawa Valley. You’ll see farms and homes in the distance. You’ll also get a view of the Ottawa River. It’s my favourite place to rest and have a snack. Tawadina is the Algonquin word for “valley.”

Happy Hiking!

If you live in the Ottawa/Gatineau area, I highly recommend this trail. I really love visiting mid-spring when the wildflowers are still in bloom and the waters have receded, but any time of year is great.

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